A Texas man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for attacking an Asian family at a Sam’s Club store in what officials described as a “hate crime” stemming from coronavirus-related discrimination.
Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, admitted to attacking an Asian family with young children on March 14, 2020, because he believed the Chinese were responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Pandemic-driven and racially-motivated violence are reprehensible crimes, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kristen Clark, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. statement on Thursday. “Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have increased during the pandemic and must be addressed. All people, regardless of race, color or national origin, deserve to feel safe and secure in their communities.”
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Gomez did not know the family but assumed they were Chinese and followed them because he believed they were a “threat” from a country that “started spreading that disease,” according to the Justice Department, citing statements he made during his conviction. . begging
He left the family momentarily to find a steak knife in the store and bent the knife so that the edge was facing outwards as he gripped the handle in his fist.
Gomez later tracked down the family and punched the father in the face, cutting him in the process, before leaving them to search the store again for another 8-inch knife.
Once again, Gomez returned to the family by killing one of their two young children – a 6-year-old boy. Gomez left a cut on the boy’s face that wrapped around the back of his head. The cuts were millimeters from the 6-year-old’s right eye and right ear, according to the DOJ.
Gomez also stabbed a white Sam’s Club employee who intervened to stop the attack. As others held Gomez down, he yelled, “Get out of America!” in the family
The 21-year-old admitted in court that he was trying to hit the boy, but a store employee stopped him from doing so, the DOJ said in a press release.
“Mr. Gomez’s cowardly and racially motivated actions do not represent our West Texas community,” said FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Downey. “Our hope is that today’s sentencing will help victims in the healing process. Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected.”
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U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff for the Western District of Texas said Gomez’s 25-year sentence “sends a loud and clear message that our office will aggressively prosecute federal hate crimes while bringing justice to victims” and that hate crimes “will not be tolerated.”
Stop Anti-Asian Pacific-Islander Hate (Stop AAIP Hate), an organization dedicated to tracking and combating hate crimes against Asian victims, reported 9,000 incidents of anti-Asian harassment, ranging from verbal to physical harassment, between March 2020 and June 2021.
Reports collected by Stop AAPI Hate are from the victim themselves or an adult reporting on their behalf. Overall, the report found verbal harassment and stalking — interactions that don’t legally qualify as hate crimes — make up the two largest chunks of total incidents.
Physical attacks came third. But the percentage of their incidents this year increased from 2020 – 16.6% compared to 10.8%.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.